Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Stroke Recovery: Learning to Walk

I have just had a stroke and am learning to walk again. This involves not just getting the muscles working but I have to learn to do consciously what I have done instinctively since I first walked as a baby. It’s a bit like when I learned to drive. I had to do different things with each foot, had to steer with one hand to change gear with the other, and had so many things to look out for, that I thought I would never get the hang of it. But as I practiced, things got better until some of them became automatic and I could devote more of my attention to other things.

We think that walking is just putting one foot in front of the other, but that is the least of it. Having got the foot forward, you have to straighten the leg carefully so as not to lock out the knee, then shift your weight onto it. Your weight must be transferred not just sideways but forward, so that you do not fall backwards. With a bit of luck, now you take a step. The balance also involves the position of your upper body and your hips, all of which you have to consciously monitor and adjust while especially paying attention to your leg, because if you take your attention off it for a second the tension will go and it will give way. And you thought walking was easy!

I expect that, like driving, it will get easier and my instinct will take over eventually, but I would not be surprised if I can never take it for granted again. And I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing. Maybe it would do us all good to walk at a slower pace and think about things more. Maybe it would do us all good to go back to basics on other things too and look at how they really work and think about how we are doing.

Think about relationships for example. At the beginning they are new and frail and we have to pay them a lot of attention. Such little things can spoil them. You have to learn more about each other each day. You come to realise how precious the other one is to you and you nurture the relationship carefully. But how does it look further down the line? Different I hope. But have we come to take too much for granted? Think for a moment about how it was in the early days, and think WHY it was. If this is important are you taking the same care? It would be wise to take a look at yourself, even if you think the other person is at fault, before words are said that may spoil it forever. Maybe their behaviour is a reaction to a change in you. Maybe you don't even realise the change.

This can be applied to all relationships: our parents, our children, our friends, even our relationship with God. He will patiently forgive our neglect, but not forever. Is he still the most important thing in your life? Does it show? Let us learn to walk again with care and attention to detail, and make sure we are doing it right.

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